MGM Resorts Gives Up on Dubai Casino Plans, at Least for Now

Casino and hospitality giant MGM Resorts is giving up on its plans for a Dubai casino, at least for now. Despite that, the company is bullish on seeing its resort megaproject through, with or without a casino.

For reference, MGM’s plan for The Island is to construct a three-hotel complex, combining an Aria, an MGM and a Bellagio hotel into a huge 1,400-room mnl168 property. The company has been working on this for several years now, although progress has been slow. It wasn’t until November 2023 that local project developer Wasl issued a $1.2 billion contract to China to build the resort.

The Island will cost some $2.5 billion to construct and will become a premier hospitality destination.

Dubai Did Not Legalize Gaming as MGM Had Hoped

The reason why MGM Resorts is giving up on its casino project, at least for now, is the United Arab Emirates’ cultural opposition to gambling as a whole. While many believe that at least some emirates will eventually mellow down and permit some forms of real-money games, Dubai remains reluctant to greenlight casino gaming.

Bill Hornbuckle, MGM’s president and chief executive officer, had teased in 2023 that there are some possibilities of gaming getting legalized in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. As a result, he said that The Island will have 200,000 square feet of space set aside for a luxurious casino. In another conference call, he suggested that MGM might operate as many as four casinos in the Emirates in the near future.

However, Hornbuckle’s prediction did not come true and Dubai did not permit gaming. Despite that, the CEO is still optimistic about The Island’s future.

Obviously, we have Dubai. We have our project there, which is an amazing project. It’s going to be over a $2.5 billion project without a casino in it.

Bill Hornbuckle, president & CEO, MGM Resorts

The future of gaming in the UAE remains murky but MGM Resorts is likely to try Abu Dhabi next. The company has been eyeing Yas Island for a while, considering a potential property there.

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While Hornbuckle believes that Abu Dhabi or Dubai would be the first to allow gaming, competitor Wynn Resorts has placed its bets behind Ras Al Khaimah.